12 Tips to Make Paddle Boarding More Fun

Paddle boarding is a popular watersport that has been embraced by people of all ages and levels of fitness. Since paddleboards can float easily under a person’s weight, they’re well-suited for children and the elderly as well as most adults. 

There are several things you can do to make your paddle boarding experience easier and more fun. Check out the tips below to get the most out of paddle boarding. 

Make Sure You Bring Supplies for Paddle Boarding

If you’re going paddle boarding, you must bring the right kind of supplies with you. This is especially true if you’re planning on being out on your board for several hours. Since you’re going out on a body of open water, you need to make sure you bring everything you need with you in case of an emergency.

Here are some supplies you should consider bringing with you on a paddle boarding trip (Source: Earth River SUP): 

  • Food: Bringing a high-energy snack in a waterproof bag like almonds or beef jerky is a good idea if you plan on spending several hours on the water. This is an especially good idea if you’re paddle boarding on the open ocean on the off chance you drift further than expected. It’s easy to succumb to hunger headaches and other discomforts on the open water if you don’t pay attention to your food intake throughout the day while active. 
  • Water: Like food, you need to bring at least a full canteen or bottle of fresh water with you when you’re paddle boarding. It’s easy to become dehydrated, especially if you’re doing it in warm temperatures or under the open sun. 
  • Cellphone: A cellphone is essential to have in your supplies in case of an unexpected event, such as a medical emergency or a storm that capsizes your paddleboard. Either use a waterproof phone, or get a case for it. Putting it on a floating lanyard is a good idea, too. 
  • Dry bag: A dry bag is a waterproof bag that you can keep your supplies in, such as your cellphone, money, keys, and food. 
  • Light source: You should bring along a light source such as a strong LED flashlight, especially if you’re going paddle boarding near dawn or dusk. This is because paddleboarders are not very visible in the water, so in low light conditions, you should use a flashlight to make yourself more visible to passing boaters. Be sure to read Carlo’s post on paddle boarding at night.
  • Hat: Not only can a hat help shade your eyes and make it easier to see, but it can also help keep your face and upper body from becoming excessively sunburned if you wear a wide-brimmed hat. Any time you are out in the sun longer than 20 minutes, cover up for protection. 
  • Sunscreen: Along with a hat and other protective gear, you should also make sure that you both wear and bring along some extra sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun. While you’re out paddle boarding, you get exposed to the sun from above, and you also get exposed to the sun that is reflected off the surface of the water. Be sure to re-apply sunscreen throughout the day whenever you get wet so that you don’t lose coverage. 

If you have the right supplies with you when you’re out paddle boarding, you feel more secure to take on any challenges you meet out on the water, and you’ll be safer, too. 

Make Sure You Have the Right Gear for Paddle Boarding

Along with the right supplies, you should also make sure that you have the right paddle boarding gear to get the most out of your paddle boarding trip. 

Before you go out paddle boarding, make sure you have the following items with you: 

  • Paddleboard: It’s hard to go paddle boarding without one, but it’s also a good idea to make sure that you get the right size and type of paddleboard for the type of paddling you’re looking to do. Racing paddleboards are built much differently than cruising boards, so think about the kind of paddle boarding you’re interested in before investing in one. 
  • Paddle leash: A paddle leash allows you to secure your paddle to your board, which helps prevent a situation where your board floats away when you fall.. You can also leash yourself to your paddleboard to prevent it from being pushed away from you by waves if you fall off in a strong current. 
  • Paddle: Make sure when you’re choosing a paddle that you choose a paddle appropriate to your height. If you don’t, it’ll make paddling much more difficult than necessary. Test several paddleboard paddles in your hand before deciding on the one that’s most comfortable to use. 
  • Life jacket or flotation device: No matter what kind of body of water you’re paddle boarding on, wearing a life jacket is important in case of an accident where you fall and become injured, or you’re struck by a boat. The majority of fatalities related to watersports involve victims without a life jacket. It is critical to wear a life jacket if you paddle board but can’t swim.

Check the Weather Before You Go Out Paddle Boarding

There’s nothing worse than being caught out in a rough sea or a pouring thunderstorm on a paddleboard, especially if you’re still new to the sport and don’t have the experience to handle choppy water, strong currents, or whitecaps. 

It’s vital to check the weather forecast for the area where you’ll be paddle boarding the day before to make sure that there is little to no probability for storms. (Source: SUP Boarder Mag) This is even more important if you’re going paddle boarding on a large body of water, such as a large lake or the ocean, where rough water can be more dangerous. 

Plan Your Paddle Boarding Trip

Knowing where you’re going when you take your paddleboard out can take a lot of apprehension out of your trip and can allow you to focus on relaxing and enjoying the view while you get there. You don’t have to have an exact idea of where you’ll end up, but knowing a general idea and some landmarks along the way can help you from getting turned around if you plan on spending several hours out on the water. 

It’s wise to bring a map of the waterway you’ll be paddle boarding along in your dry bag. That way, if you do happen to get turned around, you can pull the map out and re-orient yourself. Cellphone apps work well, too, as long as you have signal.

Finally, be sure to let people know exactly when you’re going paddle boarding, where you plan on going, and when you plan on being back. This can allow a search effort to begin in a reasonable amount of time if you don’t return. This is especially important for solo paddleboarders.

Sit Down While Paddling if You’re New to Paddle Boarding

It’s easy to get discouraged if you have problems with your stability early on while trying to learn how to paddle board, and this can take a lot of fun out of learning it. Instead of stressing yourself out over trying to get up on your feet with a perfect stance right away, practice paddling while sitting or kneeling on your board at first instead.

It’s easier to learn how to paddle board this way because your center of gravity is closer to the water and the center of the board, which improves stability and makes it easier to balance. Once you get used to balancing on the paddleboard while sitting, you can move on to trying to stand up on the board more and more until you’re comfortable with it.  

Practice Going from a Sitting to a Standing Position on Paddle Board

When you’re ready to progress from sitting on your paddleboard to standing, try spending plenty of time practicing moving from a sitting to a standing position while on your board. This is one of the points where it’s easiest to lose your balance and fall off the board, so becoming smooth and fluid in your movements while doing it can help a lot with preventing a bunch of falls early on. (Source: REI)

To go from a sitting to a standing position on a paddleboard, do the following: 

  • Draw your legs up until you have moved from a sitting to a kneeling position. Lift your torso straight and shift your legs up beneath you. 
  • Place your dominant foot forward on the paddleboard and make sure your foot is placed securely on the board. 
  • Bending forward and using your hands for balance, push yourself up off the board and into a standing position. Be sure to keep your body centered over the board while rising to avoid losing your center of gravity and tipping the board.

It may take some practice to get good at moving into a standing position on a paddleboard, but once you figure out how to do it, it will soon become muscle memory. Practicing moving from a sitting to a standing position might not sound like fun, but once you learn this skill, your boarding will take much less effort, and you’ll be able to enjoy it more. 

Practice Falling and Climbing Back on Your Paddle Board

Along with practicing how to get up on your paddleboard, you should also practice how to fall off it correctly. The reason it’s important to practice falling off your paddleboard the right way is because if you fall across or against your paddleboard, you could cause yourself a serious injury or even knock yourself unconscious. Obviously, on the open water, that is a dangerous situation. 

When falling from a paddleboard, you should push out from the board to fall into the water and clear of the board. This is also a good reason why it’s important to have your board leashed to you so that the momentum of your fall doesn’t push the paddleboard too far away from you. In strong currents, this can cause the paddleboard to be ripped out of your control. (Source: Overton’s)

Make Sure You’re Using the Board and Paddle Correctly

Make sure that you’re using your paddleboard right-side-up and facing the correct way. The design of the paddleboard means that if you try paddling it in the wrong direction, you’re going to be fighting against the contours of the board. 

If you’re not sure which end of the paddleboard is the right end, you can check with the manufacturer of your particular board model, but as a general rule, the pointier end of the paddleboard is typically the front end of the board. Fins are at the rear. Believe it or not, I’ve read one story from a rental company where a new paddle boarder was trying to ride his board upside down. Don’t be that person.

Keep Your Paddle Board Maintained

If you want to get the most enjoyment out of your paddle boarding excursions, you’ll want to keep your paddleboard in good shape. Keep your paddleboard waxed between outings (our post) and make sure that you don’t store it in the sun, as this can cause the outer layer of the paddleboard to become discolored and eventually crack from ultraviolet damage. 

While most cosmetic defects won’t negatively affect the performance of the board all that much, you’ll get much more enjoyment out of your board if it looks good and feels good when you’re taking it out. To keep it looking brand new, make sure to take good care of it and store it in a dark, cool place in a cover when not in use. 

Here are some other ways to help keep your paddleboard in good shape:

  • Clean your board regularly with a multi-surface cleaner. Read our full post on keeping your board clean.
  • Be sure to keep any metal pieces on your gear oiled. This is important whether you’re paddle boarding in fresh or saltwater. 
  • Repair any holes or punctures in your paddleboard by squeezing some epoxy putty over the flaw and scraping it smooth before allowing it to dry. 
  • Make sure your paddleboard is tied down securely every time you transport it. All it takes is a loosened strap to send your paddleboard into the middle of a busy interstate. Not only can this damage the board, but it’s also very dangerous to other drivers. 

If you take care of your paddleboard, you can expect to have fun with it for years to come. 

Give Yourself Enough Room

When you’re first learning how to paddleboard, give yourself plenty of space away from other boarders or people in the water, even if you’re going out with a group. This is because disturbances on the top of the water like another person bouncing their board or trying to paddle alongside you can cause you to lose stability and increase your likelihood of falling from your board. 

Not only are you more likely to fall from your board if you get too close to another boarder, but you’re also more likely to fall into another person’s board and either hurt yourself or knock them from their board, too. Instead of crowding together, be sure to leave several feet of space between yourself and other paddleboarders. 

It’s also important that you make room for faster watercraft, such as motorized boats. Don’t paddle board in the middle of busy boating channels, as you won’t have time to get out of the way if a boat comes bearing down on you without seeing you. Even if you aren’t struck by a high-powered boat, boarding too close to a boating lane can cause you to be thrown from your paddleboard by the boat’s wake.

Since I paddle board, boat and jet ski, I’m keenly aware of the difficulties each activity produces for anyone participating in the other activities. While most boaters follow no-wake zone rules, operators can’t slow down for every kayak, canoe, fishing boat or paddle board along main channels. And when larger boats do react and suddenly slow, it creates a bow wave larger than their wake would have been. So keep that in mind as boats go past. Their wake at speed may be easier on you than if they tried to slow down abruptly when seeing you.

While I and my kids are trained and experienced in how to quickly avoid an unexpected object in our path, some jet skiers will instead try to lift off throttle or hit the brakes, which results in loss of steering ability and increased chance of contact. And it’s pretty common for jet skis to be operated by renters with little to no training before heading out at 50-60 mph.

Keep those things in mind as advice from someone experienced in all of these activities. In tighter channels, listen for approaching watercraft in addition to keeping your eyes up.

Keep Your Head Up

It’s a difficult concept to wrap your head around at first, but you shouldn’t be looking at your board or your feet while paddle boarding. If you bend your body forward to look at your feet, you’re much more likely to throw off your center of gravity, and you’re more likely to destabilize your board and tip over. (Source: AquaViews)

Instead, keep your head pointed forward at the horizon and stretch your body up tall and straight. Use your core to paddle rather than just your arms to prevent fatigue. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Lessons

If you are trying to get into paddle boarding and you’re having a difficult time with it, don’t be ashamed to go looking for a paddle boarding instructor. There’s nothing wrong with getting instruction in a watersport, and doing paddle boarding as a group activity with other learners can help give you confidence on your board. Paddle boarding is always fun with other people who enjoy it, too. 

Check out more in Carlo’s Inexpensive Paddle board post or my 2021 Best Paddle Board brand buyer’s guide.

Bonus tip: Write down your board’s serial number in case of loss or theft

Final thoughts

The best way to have more fun while paddle boarding is to make sure you’re prepared to go. Not having the right gear, supplies, or experience can put a serious damper on your boarding expedition, but being well-prepared can leave you free to enjoy yourself, and all the water has to offer. 

So take in all of our tips, get out there, stay safe and have fun.

Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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